Special Needs Parenting :: How Do You Know When Your Child Needs Help? – by Carey Nelson Handley

I remember taking our four-month old daughter to an appointment with her pediatrician. The doctor commented on how strong her legs were and how she was meeting her milestones. I beamed like the first-time parent I was and just knew she was bound for greatness!

When she was given inoculations, I marveled at how she didn’t cry. She didn’t even flinch. How brave she was, I thought, not realizing that she had an immature central nervous system that would cause issues down the road.

Within a few months, she started missing milestones. She wasn’t crawling. She wasn’t talking and her teeth were nowhere to be found. The dentist said there was nothing he could do and the pediatrician told us that all children develop differently, something he would repeat often throughout her first few years.

The day our daughter crawled it was backwards on her back. She was 10 ½ months old. She got her first tooth at 16 ½ months and speech came at two years but she was jargoning rather than producing intelligible sentences. We won’t even discuss how many years it took for potty training due to that immature central nervous system and not for lack of trying.

We started asking questions early, although finding answers took much longer. I was a first-time Mom and my friends’ children all developed much sooner. I had to balance what I was being told by experts with my intuition that something was wrong – all while fearing I was being overdramatic.

When something doesn’t feel right, it often isn’t. Even though being a parent was new to me, her development didn’t seem right. That’s why we pushed for answers and started visiting specialists, not wanting to accept the “all children develop differently” mantra. It was frustrating when instead of guiding me towards solutions, the pediatrician seemed dismissive. One great thing that did come from that pediatrician was a referral to an excellent neurologist, one we still see to this day, over 20 years later.

The bottom line is to follow your instincts. They will often be your strongest guiding force. Do you own research whether or not you’re getting solid answers from your child’s doctor. Ask questions until you get answers that make sense to you. Keep records of everything you see that may be a warning sign as well as every professional you talk to, every evaluation and every diagnosis you receive. I never realized until later that the notes I was taking gave each doctor and therapist clues to their part of the puzzle.

You know your child best. Never hesitate questioning doctors because you think they have all the answers. While a medical degree may make them an expert in their field, they are not an expert in your child. Don’t settle until you find a clear pathway to give your child the support that is needed to move forward. Your diligence gives your child the best foundation for what lies ahead.

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